Nietzsche, Friedrich (1844–1900)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC057-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 21, 2019, from

3. The Nachlaß

Nietzsche left behind a large body of unpublished material, his Nachlaß, which technically should include The Antichrist and Ecce Homo, published by his sister in 1895 and 1908 respectively. However, Nietzsche had made arrangements for their publication and prepared a printer’s copy of each. For purposes of understanding his philosophy, these are therefore accorded the same status as his earlier works and are not usually considered to be part of his Nachlaß. This entry gives a very secondary role to the remainder of Nietzsche’s Nachlaß, which includes the relatively polished essays written in the early 1870s (mentioned in §2 of this entry). These essays are informative about Nietzsche’s early views, and are sometimes also thought to provide a clearer statement of his later views of truth and language than do the works he published. The interpretation of Nietzsche’s development offered here supports a very different view: that Nietzsche chose not to publish these essays because he soon progressed beyond them to quite opposed views.

Another issue that divides interpreters concerns the weight to give to the notes of Nietzsche’s later years. Many treat them as material he would have published if he had remained productive for longer. But since he might instead have rejected and disposed of much of this material, others advise great caution in its use. Further, we often cannot determine the use Nietzsche had in mind for particular notes even when he wrote them. Nietzsche composed his books to lead prepared readers to certain views. The rich context and clues for reading supplied by his books, when they are attended to, provide a check on interpretive licence and a basis for getting at Nietzsche’s own thinking that has no parallel in the case of the Nachlaß material. This applies to the entire contents of Der Wille zur Macht (The Will to Power), which some have regarded as Nietzsche’s magnum opus. Although he did announce it as ‘in preparation’, there is evidence that he dropped his plans to publish a work of this title; the book we have is actually a compilation of notes from the years 1883–8 selected from his notebooks and arranged in their present form by his sister and editors appointed by her. Such notes may sometimes help in understanding what Nietzsche actually did publish. But it is difficult to justify giving them priority when they suggest views that differ from and are even contrary to those suggested by a careful reading of Nietzsche’s books (see §§11–12 of this entry).

Citing this article:
Clark, Maudemarie. The Nachlaß. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1844–1900), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC057-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2019 Routledge.

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